Needs of Students With Autism in a Classroom Setting
“The number of children diagnosed with autism is on the rise. The estimated prevalence rate of autism across all age groups is now approximately 1 in every 68; for children, prevalence is even higher, with at least 2% of all children are affected in the USA. However, recent data indicate that the prevalence rate may be even higher. For example, prevalence rates in South Korea were reported to be 2.64% and in Northern Ireland, 2.3% of school children (6–15 years of age) have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In the United Kingdom (UK) as a whole, the Millennium Cohort Study (n = 13,287 families) revealed that 3.5% of 11-year-old children are reported to have autism, i.e., parents had been told by professionals that their child has autism. These high prevalence figures are supported by self-reports of 16-year-old young people (n = 1034) in Northern Ireland of whom 3.1% stated that they had autism and by 11-year-olds (n = 2319) of whom 2.7% reported to have autism. There are no published prevalence rates for adults with autism, although prevalence rates are likely to be similar to those for children” (NCBI). This is why there has been such a need for teachers to understand students with autism.
Ways Teachers and Schools can Help Autistic Students
Aside from getting the increasingly mandated autism education training, teachers and staff can immediately make the school environment better for children with autism and similar disorders by doing the following:
Connect with parents in a positive way
The parents of the child can be your biggest allies or your biggest enemies. Have a heart-to-heart chat with them at the start of each year and throughout the year to address issues or concerns. Let them know that you want to help. Parents can help fill in gaps and provide vital information, but you have to be willing to do the same for them and share progress reports and updates. Keeping open lines of communication is vital!
Make a list of the child’s strengths
Every child has strengths. Yes, every child- even the one who is non verbal or who seems to be struggling to master even the most basic of learning skills. Every child with a learning disability has things they excel in and do good with. You just have to observe them closely and take off the academic focus blinders and see the child as a whole. The child may be loving and caring, or have some skill that their peers do not demonstrate.
Understand how the child learns
A child who is on the autism spectrum will not learn like ‘normal’ students. Many students with autism learn visually and rely on visual guides like a written schedule and to do lists to help them stay on track. Or you may need to break things up to help the child stay focused and to keep them from getting overwhelmed and frustrated. Children can learn in many different ways so ae sure you try to find what works best for them.
Have a behavior plan in place
Students who are on the spectrum often get overwhelmed and frustrated very quickly compared to their peers. This is because of something called sensory overload. It’s important to pick up the early signs and have a designated area where the student is able to go during a meltdown or when they feel upset or nervous so they can calm down. This will help the child feel assured and safe, and keeps the class moving onward.
To learn more about the autism behavior training workshops for educators, where to find resources, and how to better help your students who are on the spectrum, contact us today!